The One Question Great Leaders Dare to Ask Themselves

by Sharon Mankin, Certified Lead Self Lead Others Coach, Dallas, Texas

It’s human nature to respond to the world based on how it makes us feel.

For example, if you enjoy a straight shooter, you shoot people straight. If you’re energized by lively debates, you lean hard into conflict. If your head constantly swims with new ideas, you fire-hose people with them.

These natural tendencies reveal our hard wiring, communication style, and strengths—and that’s a good thing. Most of the time.

But let’s imagine you’ve hired a new IT guy. When he enters the room, you offer a hard-pumping handshake, gesture for him to sit down and begin tackling the white board with broad strokes. Time to bring this guy up to speed!

Twenty minutes into your speech, you pause. The new guy isn’t talking and he looks shocked, wide-eyed and confused—suddenly you’re afraid you’ve hired the wrong guy.

But the truth is, he’s excellent and capable. The problem is, the straight shooting, lively debating, conflict-embracing entrepreneur in you has blown right past the soft-spoken, introspective, conflict avoiding IT guy. Instead of putting your arm around him and charging the hill together, you’ve thrown a fist-full of gravel in his gears!

Great leaders adjust their leadership style based on the strengths, gifts and hard wiring of their team. They’re willing to ask this question:


“What’s it like to work on the other side of me?”

Pose this question to yourself and your team and tell them you’re developing your empathy muscles so you can lead them better. Ask for kind, but honest feedback. Listen for understanding and resist getting defensive. Consider how you might use their feedback to be a better communicator.

If you’re willing go a step further, pose the question in a different way to friends and family, asking:

“What’s it like to live on the other side of me?”

Then listen for understanding—you’re friends and family will feel heard and you’ll get the information you need to better express your love for them.

Lead Self Lead Others, LLC offers a deeper review of this question through leadership coaching. Our Birkman Relationship Coaching can be done individually or in teams. We also offer a 360 Feedback tool that provides the insight and understanding you need to lead with excellence.  We’d love to help you get better.

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